Supergroup Floored by Four Stalls on Its Improv Trip

Floored by Four

Floored by Four (Chimera Music)

What happens when you put together three notable avant-improv musicians and former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt? Not exactly the supergroup you might expect. Floored by Four, the tongue-twisting debut by the combo of Watt, guitarist Nels Cline (Wilco, the Geraldine Fibbers), keyboardist Yuka Honda (Cibbo Matto), and drummer Dougie Bowne (John Cale, Iggy Pop), is only intermittently super, for one thing, and the disc does a better job showcasing its individual members' particular styles than pulling them together as a group.

Each song is titled after its presumed composer; the first track, "Nels," is a textbook Cline performance, straddling the line between rock heroics and free-jazz acrobatics, but it's not exactly an inspired effort. "Yuka" gets by on a slow, massive groove and Cline's proggy explorations. Watt's brief contribution (at just under four minutes, it's less than half the length of any other track) is the standout; his bass really comes alive here, and he pushes his partners through an invigorating exercise in tight and limber punk-funk that's livelier and more engaging than just about anything surrounding it. All in all, Floored by Four is a nice introduction to rock's wonky underbelly, but for the initiated it might feel somewhat rudimentary.